I had a chance to read an excerpt from your debut novel, Sneaker Wave and I can see why it has been receiving some great reviews. For me, it gave me the chills and brought back memories of the Reena Virk murder of 1997, when teens involved in her horrific death tried to keep the details of her murder a secret. What was the inspiration behind Sneaker Wave and can you tell us a little bit about your central protagonist, Brady Joseph?
Jeff Beamish: I hate to use the word inspiration when talking about senseless tragedies like the Reena Virk murder, but, yes, that was one of three incidents in B.C. involving so-called codes of silence that in part moved me to write Sneaker Wave. The first was the 1989 murder in Surrey of a 12-year-old boy named Shawn Tirone by a teenage acquaintance in a case where dozens of teens heard about the killing but few came forward to police. I covered the case as a newspaper reporter and I can remember interviewing the mother of one of the first kids who spoke up, a boy who wasn’t afraid to do the right thing even if it caused him trouble. The third case was the 1998 manslaughter death of Bob McIntosh in Squamish after he went to break up a house party. While each case is extremely different, there was that one moment in each where everyone involved agreed it was in their best interest to keep quiet about a horrible act. I’m fascinated both by how these people got to that point, and how they got away from it. In Sneaker Wave, my main character Brady Joseph acquiesces, and, for him, the stakes get higher as weeks and months turn into years.
Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Sneaker Wave?
JB: It’s a story about how the choices teenagers make can haunt them for years if the circumstances are bad and the decisions are even worse. While at times it’s a plot-driven novel with numerous twists and turns and, I hope, plenty of suspense, I think Sneaker Wave finds it strength as a study of how different characters react when they realize they can get away with a horrendous crime if they just keep quiet. The coastal geography and beauty of the Pacific Northwest area where the novel is set help bring the story to life.
Can you share that exciting moment when you sold your novel to Oolichan Books?
JB: I signed my book contract with Oolichan in February 2011. My wife photographed the moment with her cell phone and then I went off to work. That night I told our children the news at dinner and I believe later that night we popped open a bottle of champagne. But I told very few other people, thinking I’d wait until closer to the publication date so I could avoid people asking me for incremental updates. Good thing too, as numerous delays meant Sneaker Wave wouldn’t be published until the fall of 2013.
At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
JB: I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writers only get stuck when they have nothing to say. For newspaper reporters, if they get stuck writing a news story, they haven’t done enough reporting. For fiction writers, if they get stuck they haven’t done enough imagining or creating.